This is an open letter from Pulaski Academy Head Coach Kevin Kelley to the players and staff of the Helena West Helena Cougars concerning the 5A State Championship game.
Coach Kelley gave ArkansasVarsity.com permission to post this letter, in hopes of making sure fans, players, and staff from the Cougar football program would get a chance to read it.
I cannot say how impressed I was with the way the cougars carried themselves after that championship game last night. To a man, either the young men just shook my hand or told me congratulations and said something nice about our team. We were there two years ago and it is difficult to look someone in the eye when you are feeling the loss and do that.
They must have tremendous leadership from their coaching staff including Coaches Smith and Jacobs and the rest of the staff.
I want to say openly to the entire Helena-West Helena community that you should be proud of your team for the way they worked this year. Not only physically, but to beat the psychological barrier that it takes for a team that has not won a conference championship in so long, especially a state championship appearance in so long, is incredible.
Someone on a (message board) thread used the analogy of a boxing match and maybe that is a good one. We came out jabbing early and threw some big punches that would have knocked out a normal team but the cougars and staff kept fighting. They fought back in the second half and made it an awesome state championship game. The Bruin players took their punches, and they were big ones, late and were able to keep standing.
It was what football should be, two communities coming out to support their teams. Both teams had a lot of respect for each other and the game. All players fought their hearts out. People that were not associated with either team were there to watch the battle between what is arguably the best two teams in the state overall. HWH was ranked number 1 overall and I think we were 4th. Maybe now it should be 1-2, with no disrespect meant toward Bentonville or Lake Hamilton.
There is one small part of me that HATES ONE PART of football. That part is having to watch a group of young men that have set their goals and worked in the heat and the cold and pushed through physical pain to help their team win a championship and get all the way to the game and suffer the disappointment. I have seen it on my own players faces and on the opposing teams as well and I do hate it.
HWH accomplished a lot this season making a town believe. I have a huge level of respect for that staff and those players.
Thanks for playing the game like it should be. Thanks to the coaches for spending tons of times with those boys and getting football back on top in HWH.